Over 250,000 Sign Petition to Stop ICE Using Powerful Disinfectant As Detainees Allegedly Suffer Serious Side Effects

More than 250,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (IEC) agency end its alleged use of a disinfectant spray immigration advocates say has been causing serious side effects in detainees.

By early Wednesday morning, more than 259,000 people had signed the petition published on Change.org following allegations of guards with The GEO Group, which operates the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, excessively spraying the facility with HDQ Neutral in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The excessive use of the highly concentrated spray, immigration advocates have alleged, has caused serious side effects among detainees, including headaches, nose bleeds, skin rashes and fainting.

In a joint complaint sent to ICE officials on May 21, the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants said that since May 11, they had been receiving "multiple reports multiple times per day" from detainees at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center about the excessive use of HDQ Neutral.

In one testimony shared in the complaint, a detainee at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center said "the disinfection spray that the facility is using is hurting us."

"Everyone in our facility has been having bloody noses, burning eyes, headaches and our bones have been hurting," they stated.

"The spray that they use is called HDQ Neutral. On the bottle it says that it has 'Irreversible eye damage and skin burns. Avoid breathing. Do not get in eyes or on skin. Wear goggles and face shields. Wash thoroughly after using,'" they said.

"The facility is not protecting us from this spray. Our beds are right next to the door handles so when they spray it on the door handles it gets into our rooms and we breath the spray in," the detainee warns. "We have asked to be seen by the doctor but they have not stopped using the spray."

"The guards have started spraying this chemical everywhere, all over everything, all the time," another testimony provided in the complaint states. "It causes a terrible reaction on our skin."

"When we ask for medical assistance, they just give us some cream to put over it," they said.

The detainee also said: "The spray also hurts our airways. When I blow my nose, blood comes out."

"They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don't know what happened to them," they said. "There is no fresh air."

In a third testimony, a detainee states that they had "started bleeding from my nose" after being in contact with the chemical, which they said was identified by a worker as HDQ Neutral.

"When I complained to [supervisory staff] she told me that it is not her problem, but that of the cleaning and safety staff and to take it up with them," the detainee said. "The staff had placed advisories on the walls, but it did not mention any safety risks or to wait a period of time before using the bathrooms."

In the complaint, immigration advocates allege that GEO Group guards had been "rampantly spraying chemicals, such as Spartan Chemical Company's HDQ Neutral" as often as every 15 to 30 minutes around housing units at the Adelanto facility.

"The sprayed chemicals are coming into contact with individuals' eyes, noses, mouths, skin, clothing, bedding, food and drinking water, on an ongoing basis," the complaint states.

In addition to nose bleeds, headaches and burning, detainees have also complained of suffering from breathing issues and coughing, as well as severe nausea and stomach pain.

In the petition published on Change.org, the creator of the page calls for the public to demand an end to the use of HDQ Neutral.

"Their eyes are burning for god's sake!" the author writes. "They are humans and do not deserve this cruel act!"

In a statement sent to ICE, a spokesperson insisted that "disinfectant formulations used at Adelanto are compliant with detention standards, registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and used according to manufacture instruction for routine cleaning and maintenance of the facility."

"Any assertion or claim to the contrary," the spokesperson said, "is false."

ICE, they said, is "committed to maintaining the highest facility standards of cleanliness and sanitation, safe work practices, and control of hazardous substances and equipment to ensure the environmental health and safety of detainees, staff, volunteers and contractors from injury and illness."

This article has been updated with a statement from ICE.

Immigrants wait in a processing cell at the Adelanto detention facility on November 15, 2013 in Adelanto, California. ICE detainees allege that they have been suffering serious side effects due to the excessive use of a disinfectant spray amid the coronavirus pandemic. John Moore/Getty